Jafar Panahi has always had a knack for paradox, so it's no surprise that the Iranian director's latest film, Offside, should center on the clash of wills in a soccer matchwhile never quite revealing the action. For the most part, the camera is trained on a group of young women penned up just outside a crucial game -- the 2005 Iran-Bahrain World Cup qualifier.
Spider-Man 3 is a great bellowing bore of a film -- the perfect opener for what's sure to be a summer of diminishing cinematic returns. The first of the film franchises to hit the theaters (Pirates of the Caribbean 3, Shrek 3, 28 Weeks Later will follow), Spider-Man 3 has an advanced case of sequel-itis, which occurs when directors try to gussy up their leftovers with CGI-effects, characters, hideous cameos, subplots and fashion flimflam, as if more were always more. And indeed, Sony Pictures seems to have thrown in mo' money in search of mo' honey -- the much-disputed estimate soars to $350 million, by some accounts -- which would make this over-hyped number the most expensive film of all time.
We see you, voyeur. Behind a camera, at a peephole, stalking, brooding -- you're a metaphor for surveillance states, urban alienation, and lonely sensation. When we can see you, as in The Lives of Others and Rear Window, we identify with you, squirm in complicity, and gaze with our own dirty delight at your gazing. Even when we don't see you, as in Caché, we are forced to see the world through your cold gaze, as if you were an unforgiving eye from our conscience.
The scene seems ordinary at first -- ruddy-cheeked boys at a game of hurling, an expanse of green, postcard Ireland. There are a few flickers of roughness in the game, just enough to keep an edge under the idyll. But nothing can prepare viewers for the violence that rends the opening scene of Ken Loach's Cannes-honored The Wind That Shakes the Barley, when British henchmen break up the gathering with explosive force.
The Lives of Others, which won the Oscar for best foreign film on Sunday, opens by drawing back the curtain on a secret scene -- an interrogation performed by a member of the Stasi, the monstrously efficient East German secret police, in the mid-1980s. The film's inquisitor, Captain Gerd Wiesler, is almost a caricature of the totalitarian apparatchik -- bloodlessly precise, by turns sinister and seductive as the interrogation requires. The scene cuts back and forth between the actual interrogation and a Stasi college classroom, where Wiesler is playing an audio tape of the session to a group of eager students.